Review: Sacrament (Minerva/King’s Head)

Following successful runs at The Theatre Upstairs in Dublin and The Vault Festival, Sacrament now comes to the King’s Head Theatre’s Plays on Film season (alongside JEW…ish, Vespertilo, Illusions of Liberty, and I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical).

In the shape of the confessional, we meet a young Irish Catholic girl (played by Leigh Douglas, who has also written the play), who is nameless. She recounts her life from her first confession through to her mid-twenties.

Although this is a one-person show, Douglas skilfully brings a wide range of characters to life, so it feels as if she is far from alone on the empty stage at the King’s Head Theatre. There are numerous serious issues to do with religious and social norms throughout, but some amusing moments, too.

Behind the scenes of Sacrament

Fiona Kingwill directs this monologue with a definite feel for the tragi-comic nature of this girl’s journey to find herself, to understand she does not want the husband and children her family expects. Amy Warren’s movement direction makes the character believable at every turn.

Each of the Irish family are so recognisable: the shocked granny looking askance at the girl going to the disco, the sheepish half-religious dad, a couple of pious aunties. The constant conveyer belt of regular Mass.

Communion, chastity, contraception, consummation, confession. “You can be doing nothing … but you thoughts can be impure”. And yet, those who are closest to you still may surpise you and know you the best.

By the thirty-minute mark our girl is in “the land of lapsed morals … England”, at university, dancing, drinking, blending in. And she meets Sophie, who was “interesting”.

A sequence after a night she’d rather forget is beautifully written and impeccably performed. Stark body language, leading into the openness and awkwardness of self-discovery in the “silky elastic silence”.

Behind the scenes of Sacrament

The dreamlike quality of the writing in the final twenty minutes, a flurry of images and movements. These are dark scenes with raw power. Wise words for wiser women.

An intriguing conflict of faith and freedom characterises this complex and moving play, which should appeal to the religious, the agnostic, and the atheist alike, as at its heart Sanctuary is about humanity.

Sanctuary is streaming until 12 May 2021 as part of King’s Head Theatre’s Plays on Film season: book here.

Find out more about Minerva Theatre here.

LouReviews received complimentary access to review Sacrament.